When you’re a Republican national leader and you’ve lost Fox “News” you’ve probably crossed a line. A very distant line, so far past halfway that you can’t see it from here. A line that’s beyond the Atlantic and deep into the Middle East.
John Boehner, for whom I’ve occasionally felt sympathy as he tried to wrangle the craziest of his flock, and about whom Dan Savage tweeted during the State of the Union Address that it’s nice to see “two people of color on the podium,” has finally pulled it off. In so doing, he’s made the obvious undeniable even to the deniers: Since day one, Congressional Republicans would rather damage the country than miss an opportunity to embarrass or obstruct Barack Hussein Obama. Whether it’s restoring the economy or seeking solutions to the insoluble in the birthplace of Abrahamic religions, their list of priorities includes only one item; and it’s not the national interest.
Yes, even the sometimes level talking heads at Fox, Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith among them, are gape-mouthed at Boehner’s craven and insolent decision to invite Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, without consulting with the White House. (Well, we haven’t heard from the brain-trust of Steve Doocey, Brian Kilmeade, Jeanine Pirro, and Sean Hannity. But even Bill O’Reilly was a little ruffled.) We might excuse Bibi for his acceptance of the invite, were it not for the fact that he’s plenty smart enough to know what’s going on. No goodwill come of this: not for Israel, not for the prospects of peace, minimal and illusory as they are. Not even, counter to Boehner’s fever dream, the Republican Party. And even though Mr. Boehner would need an extra wit to rise to the level of half-wit, and has been unable to think more than one step at a time since Obama was elected, even HE ought to understand that in matters of foreign policy anywhere, let alone the flaming Middle East, you don’t take unilateral Congressional action; you confer with the Executive Branch, even if you can’t stand the guy who sleeps down the hall from the Lincoln Bedroom.
This really is a low point on a downslope where, after six years of cynicism and dishonesty the concept of lowest of the low has lost all meaning. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it can’t get any worse from these people. I might even go so far, against all reason, to hope so. But we’ll see worse, of that there’s no doubt. And not just in foreign policy. The toxic mix of unmitigated derision of the president, a preference for one-note thinking based on simple answers, putting party above the nation, and a penchant for ignoring facts makes for a poisonous brew.
But I get it, I do. Republicans consider President Obama weak, believe he needs to invade somewhere, really soon, spend more billions, and create more dead and maimed soldiers because, really, we only tried for fourteen years. John McCain’s trigger finger has been twitching since the polls closed in aught-eight, and Lindsey Graham has had the vapors since hand came off the Bible. (Or was it the Quran?) Maybe they’re right. In wars millennia in the making, who knows? Maybe future alien historians, browsing through the rubble of humanity, will conclude that if only we’d sent more troops, fired more missiles, stayed for a few more decades, peace would have spread through the Middle East like an oil sheen in the Gulf. But isn’t it true that our armed attempts to force peace and reconciliation they don’t seem to want haven’t worked out all that well? Is it so crazy to give negotiations a shot? Call me naïve. I’ve been called a lot worse.
For years, Republicans have been saying it’s time for Obama to “own” the economy. Now, as the rebound is undeniable despite their six-year building of blockades, they’re giving him no ownership at all. So now they’ll try their hand in Mesopotamia. But trying to prevent economic recovery for political gain and campaign donations is one thing; being willing to blow up the world for the same reason is quite another. If this isn’t proof our politics are beyond repair, I don’t know what is.
Sid Schwab is a surgeon and Everett resident. He writes occasionally for The Herald. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.